Freestone Peaches

By Floyd Skloot

Chip away its crust of time
and his voice sounds the same
as when I last heard him speak
fifty-two years ago. We’d shaken
hands and cuffed shoulders
under the awning of the grocery
where we worked that summer
before college. Our parting words
were promises to keep in touch.

*

Now I have tracked him down,
prompted by seeing my local
grocer’s stockboy carry a crate
of freestone peaches. He moved
as though he were my old friend’s
shadow, holding the load low
and level as he sidestepped
customers in the produce aisle.
I stood still and recalled laughter
at day’s end as we ate peaches
bruised after he’d dropped a crate.

*

He tells me he remembers working
at the grocery but not that I did too.
Only one image remains for him:
forming a chain of six men
to sling watermelons off a truck
and pass them into the store.
Peaches? No, he would not forget
dropping a crate of peaches.

*

What he does remember is working
with me as busboys at a shorefront
restaurant. I remember working
there but not that he did too.
Only one image remains for me:
dropping a tray of soiled dishes
onto the lap of a customer,
the owner firing me in a fury.

*

It is time for him to return
to packing up his home
before next week’s move.
Downsizing, retired now,
kids grown and on their own.
Three thousand miles west
it is time for me to prepare
lunch, a few greens, a piece
of last night’s roasted chicken,
the freestone peach now ripe
enough to eat. Our parting words
are promises to keep in touch.